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How Nutrient Adaptation Affects Ageing Gut and Intestinal Stem Cells: Study Reveals

University of Helsinki researchers uncover how intermittent fasting may preserve intestinal stem cell function, offering insights into slowing age-related tissue decline.

Shivam Dwivedi
How Nutrient Adaptation Affects Ageing Gut and Intestinal Stem Cells: Study Reveals
How Nutrient Adaptation Affects Ageing Gut and Intestinal Stem Cells: Study Reveals

A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Helsinki sheds light on a novel mechanism influencing the interaction between nutrient adaptation of intestinal stem cells and the ageing process. This groundbreaking discovery holds promise for understanding and potentially enhancing the functional capacity of the ageing gut. The delicate equilibrium of cells within the intestine is intricately regulated, with nutrition playing a pivotal role. Researchers have observed that ample nutrition boosts the overall number of gut cells, whereas fasting diminishes this count. Moreover, the relative proportion of various cell types alters in response to the nutritional status.

Understanding Nutrient Adaptation Mechanism

Despite previous knowledge, questions regarding how the nutritional status of the gut governs stem cell behavior and how this adaptation changes with age remained unanswered. The concept of nutrient adaptation, referring to how nutrients guide cell function, was central to this investigation.

University of Helsinki researchers identified a new regulatory mechanism dictating the differentiation of intestinal stem cells amid fluctuating nutrient conditions. They found that cell signaling triggered by nutrients amplifies the size of stem cells in the fruit fly intestine, consequently influencing the cell type into which they differentiate. Flexible regulation of stem cell size is deemed vital for their functionality, as it allows them to adapt to prevailing nutrient conditions.

Region-Specific Regulation

Through intestine-wide cell imaging, researchers revealed that the nutrient adaptation of stem cell size and subsequent differentiation varies across different gut regions. This regional specificity underscores a more nuanced understanding of intestinal stem cell regulation, potentially informing research on intestinal diseases' pathogenesis.

Ageing and Stem Cell Function

The study also delved into the impact of ageing on intestinal stem cells' response to changing nutrient statuses. It was observed that in older animals, stem cells exhibited reduced ability to adapt, remaining consistently large in size, thereby limiting their differentiation capacity. Notably, animals subjected to intermittent fasting showed better preservation of flexible regulation of stem cell size, suggesting a potential link between intermittent fasting, stem cell function, and lifespan extension.

Potential Implications for Human Health

The mechanisms elucidated in fruit fly stem cells are believed to bear resemblance to those in human counterparts. Researchers posit that these findings could inform strategies to mitigate age-related tissue function decline by modulating stem cell nutrient adaptation. However, further investigation is warranted to discern the precise effects on human intestinal stem cells.

Professor Ville Hietakangas emphasizes the ongoing research into nutrient adaptation of stem cells, underscoring the broader significance of these findings and their potential implications for combating age-related tissue function decline.

(Source: University of Helsinki)

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